You know how you generally assume that you’re a fairly intelligent and reasonable person? My child really makes me question that at times. I find myself nit-picking at the things he says. For example:
Me: “Can you come here and put your clothes on?”
Tristan: “No. I can’t walk over there.”
Me: “Well, actually – you can. You just don’t want to.”
Tristan: (getting angry, because no one likes to be corrected by the Grammar Nazis) “No I can’t!”
Me: (because I like to be right) “You can’t walk over here. Why not? Are you incapable? Are your legs broken? Is your spine broken?”
Tristan: (feeling guilty because his Dadda can’t walk and he actually can) “I can come over there. My legs are not broken. My legs are fixed.”
And then I’m left there, knowing that I’ve won this argument, but unsure if I really should have had the argument in the first place. Is it really fair to question a child like that? He isn’t even three. Another time I told him his teeth would rot and fall out of his head if he didn’t brush his teeth (he immediately decided he needed to brush his teeth – I won that fight too.) Many times I’ve tried to sing in the car, only to be told – very firmly – “No. Mummy doesn’t sing.” I pretty much never win that fight.
But the other thing you find yourself doing, that’s completely absurd, is negotiating. “Tristan, if you finish eating your pumpkin, we can go and pretend to be planes.”
Because that’s a really great offer.
My father-in-law is good at negotiating. He very famously (you know, within the family) once talked a guy down on the price of a boat. The original price was “Free.” He thought that was too much. Ended up getting the boat, plus $1000, plus a case of beer. Now that’s good negotiation. He can do it when selling things, too. He once helped me sell a car. I had it advertised for $1900. It was rubbish. It wasn’t worth $1900, but I left some negotiating room. The car rattled like crazy when it was idling. It was two different colours – although, in my defence, we did respray it to just one colour by the time anyone was looking to buy it. When the guy came to look at it, we discovered we didn’t even have the key – and had to distract him for an hour and a half while I went to get the key from Brad at work. By the time I got back, my father-in-law had convinced the guy to buy the car … and he paid $2000 for it. He talked him UP on the price, without even having driven it. Even after he drove it, the guy agreed that the price was reasonable. It was not reasonable! It was ridiculous. But he thought he got a great deal, and everyone went home happy.
This is not the kind of negotiating that I am good at. The extent of my skill is something along the lines of “Hey, Tristan – if you go get in the shower right now, we can read a story after.” Or: “Hey, Tristan, let’s go lie down in bed – Don’t complain! you don’t have to go to sleep! – but we can just lie there and rest and if you don’t want to go to sleep, that’s okay, we will just hold hands for a bit.”
Because for some reason, children hate sleeping. It is the greatest thing in the world, child. Enjoy it.
My son, however, appears to have inherited his grandfather’s negotiating genius. He recently decided that he doesn’t wear nappies anymore. It is not actually that surprising – the kid was toilet trained before his father’s motorcycle accident, and only regressed because of the traumatic fucking trauma that hit our family. Clearly, he’s feeling more confident again, and it’s time to return to being a big boy. So – no more nappies. “I use the potty now.” Apparently we’re not such a big boy that we’ll agree to use the toilet – even though we used to, Tristan. Which is, of course, fantastic. Glad he’s feeling secure again and all that.
But then came the negotiation. This one was aimed at Nanna, because he knows how to pick his target. “Nanna … if I do my wees on the potty, can I have a quad bike?”
Nanna rings me, all proud and stuff, and says “He’s doing really well…. And he never asks for much. What do you think?”
And I say “Are you kidding me? It’s been one day. No, he can’t have a quad bike for wearing his undies for a day.”
But Tristan kept asking. Basically every time he used the potty, he would say “Can I have my quad bike now?” or “Nanna’s going to buy me a quad bike.” Very confident. It’s unbelievable.
Anyway, I decided to play the negotiation game. Keep in mind, I am dealing with a genius here. I need to play it very carefully … I could end up paying two grand for the shitbox car, if I’m not clever. So I said “Okay, Tristan, I will make a deal with you. You can have your quad bike – ” (since Nanna’s going to buy it anyway – she’s such a sucker) – “But not yet. You need to show me more than a few wees in the potty. You need to perfect this thing. You need to do all of it – pants off, wiping up after, washing your hands, clothes back on – all of it. For several weeks. And then I will let you have your bike.”
All Tristan heard was “You can have your quad bike.” Because men hear what they like to hear. He is very excited. He keeps telling people about it. To his credit, he is still going without nappies and doing quite well … but as I said, he’s learned all this before. I suspect I am still getting the raw deal here. He’s just tricked us into buying him a massive gift in return for doing something he already knows how to do.
I don’t know whether to be proud or scared. Or ashamed of myself for getting involved. The kid isn’t even three yet. He’s either going to become a lawyer, or a used car salesman. Either way, I better brush up on my own negotiating skills. He’s going to outclass me soon.